Kathleen Doran-Norton commented on my blog entry (“Now Where was that Transportation List?‘) by raising the Rice County Transportation Plan’s study of an east-west corridor study, mentioned by Tracy Davis in an earlier blog entry (“But Where does the Bridge Go?“). Kathleen’s comments actually raises an even bigger issue…the State’s transportation plans may have passed Highway 19 by.
Here’s the summary from the County’s website: “The Rice County Transportation Plan identifies the need for a future corridor study due to the lack of a continuous arterial running east-west in northeast Rice County. As growth in the area continues, the lack of such a connection limits the ability of the roadway system to safely and efficiently accommodate travel needs. If such a corridor is needed someday, and development has been allowed to occur without consideration for this roadway corridor, the impacts to property owners and the costs to the public will be much more severe. If future development is to pay for itself, it is essential to be proactive in identifying that corridor for right-of-way preservation. As a result, Rice County and its study partners, the City of Dundas, City of Northfield, Bridgewater Township, Northfield Township, and the Minnesota Department of Transportation have initiated the CSAH 1 Corridor Preservation Study.” If you visit the County’s website, you’ll see the locations under consideration are actually south of CSAH 1.
Although Northfield has talked about “The Jefferson Parkway Extension” and another bridge over the Cannon River for at least ten years, nothing has really been committed and I wonder if the County and the State are looking for a more vigorous partner to the south. Highway 19 was described to me as “Class C” with too many curves and inlets to merit substantial additional investment. Dakota County and the State are apparently looking for a an east-west route farther to the north. Council Member and Rice County Raconteur Dixon Bond discussed this “northwest passage” on the recent Locally Grown podcast.
A number of groups in town, including the now defunct Northfield Industrial Corporation and the Chamber of Commerce, have identified Highway 19 as one of their top priorities for many years. Has the State of Minnesota, Rice County and Dakota County already made decisions to move beyond Highway 19? Is there anything we can do to get the attention of decision-makers and secure the necessary resources to actually accomplish anything in a timeframe that will be meaningful? After spending three years on the Northfield Planning Commission trying to raise the priority of east-west transportation in our community, I’ll ask my final question, does anybody in Northfield even care?